Dr Raghu Vamsi, Surgical Oncologist, HCG Cancer Centre Vizag
October being the Breast cancer awareness month, let us understand few facts about COVID vaccination for breast cancer patients. We are all aware that the COIVD vaccines have come as a boon to fight the pandemic. There’s still a bit of hesitancy among cancer patients and worry about its after effects.
COVID vaccine is a biological formulation injected to improve your immunity and increases the antibodies to prevent COVID infection or at least prevent a severe form of the disease. Vaccines have been used for more than a year now and are proven to be very safe.
Here’s a list of FAQs for Breast cancer patients:
1) I have been recently diagnosed with breast cancer after recovering from a COVID infection. Do I need to take the shot?
Ans) Like, in the general population, a patient who has just recovered from COIVD can wait up to 3 months before testing for antibodies, and getting vaccinated.
2)I am a newly diagnosed breast cancer patient. Can I take the vaccine?
Ans) YES, even before the cancer treatment starts, the patients can take the vaccine.
3) Cancer survivor – Is there any contraindication for the vaccine?
ANS) There is no such contraindication, they can take the vaccine just as any other individual.
4)Can breast cancer patients take vaccine when planned for surgery?
Ans) Plan your vaccine shot preferably 5-7 days before the scheduled surgery date because you may develop some mild side effects that may be troublesome.
If the surgery is planned immediately, take your vaccine a couple of weeks after surgery when you have fully recovered from the procedure.
5)Breast cancer patients on Chemotherapy and Radiotherapy?
Ans) Patients on radiotherapy can get the shot anytime during treatment without any hindrance. Chemotherapy patients can plan their shot in between cycles, preferably around two weeks from the last one in a three-weekly protocol, so that the blood counts are normal /near normal at the time of vaccination.
6) Is it true that taking the vaccine may result in the spread of cancer to lymph nodes?
Ans) No, it isn’t. There is no proof taking the COIVD vaccine, be it on the same side arm as cancer, results in the spread of cancer or confusion due to the development of nodes. There have been one or two instances of patients developing axillary lymph nodes post-vaccination, which were unrelated events and did not cause any discrepancy in identifying positive lymph nodes.
7) Which arm should I take the vaccine?
Ans) It is preferable to take the vaccine on the side opposite to the breast cancer-affected side. It would prevent worrying about lymphedema / axillary lymph node status on the side of breast cancer.
Not all cancer patients are the same. Patients with stage 4 cancers have lower immunity compared to breast cancer patients in earlier stages. These patients should consult their oncologist and take the vaccine under guidance.
Please don’t hesitate to take the COIVD vaccine just because you have breast cancer. Be aware, consult an oncologist if you have any doubts. Take part in this fight against the pandemic as you launch /continue your battle with breast cancer.